“Women and the Automobile” shows Jeanette in her car


…”In the first advertisement, published in the January 1941 issue of Esquire magazine, a well-dressed woman is sitting in the driver’s seat of a luxurious convertible. The only other traveler is her groomed poodle riding in the backseat. Underneath this picture, the main image of the advertisement, is a smaller illustration of four people riding in the same car. The woman from the lager image is still driving, and her passengers are now one other woman and two men.

In these images, the woman exercises power and ownership over the vehicle. Not only is the car her personal car, but, as explained by the advertisement’s headline—“Jeanette MacDonald Chooses Plaid for her Beautiful Chrysler Convertible” (italics not mine)—she chose its details completely in accordance with her own taste.

The accompanying text continues, “Jeanette MacDonald…loves sunshine. Therefore her personal car is a convertible.” (italics mine). The image of ownership is emphasized by the presence of the dog, another of the woman’s personal possessions, and so we know that the car belongs exclusively to her. In the smaller image, it is clear that this ownership does not depend on the absence of men, for they are pictured as her passengers.

In the following text, it reads, “Perhaps like Miss MacDonald, you like to drive a car yourself.” This demonstrates that the woman car-owner has mobility. Her ownership of the car allows her to drive wherever she feels compelled to go.

Furthermore, Chrysler is using the image of a woman’s personal relationship with her car to help sell their product. This ad was run in Esquire Men’s Magazine. The image of a woman driver is supposed to entice men to buy the product themselves. Not only does the image illustrate the ownership women had of automobiles during WWII, but that it wasn’t read as specifically a woman’s relationship, but a driver’s relationship.”


Note: Click on the picture above twice to see the ad at nearly full size.